There are Contrasts in Every Season
I’ve created some holiday checklists here – specifically for those with chronic illnesses, and those who want to lend a helping hand. Holiday seasons are a time for fun and bonding, yet they can also be stressful periods, more so for some than others.
Whilst many are out shopping for gifts, there are single mothers struggling to provide a simple meal for their children. Whilst many are drinking in celebration, there are also many who are drinking to drown their sorrows. Whilst many are hopping from party to party, others are under their covers crying all alone in pain. The list of contrasts doesn’t end here.
Unlike others, those who live with chronic pain may find the holiday season a trying time that they dread instead of look forward to. It is not uncommon for them to start creating holiday checklists, and start planning a month or two in advance, just so that they will be able to ‘perform their duties’. For those who have loved ones with chronic illnesses, perhaps you’d like to help, but have no clue on how to do so.
*Post Updated: 09 November 2020.
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Holiday Checklist 1: Before the Holiday Festivities Go Into Full Swing
- Schedule in Time for Breaks. Have you scheduled in some rest time both before and after each activity?
- Ration Your Energy Wisely. Will this dish/decor/routine/task really make a big difference? Is it worth spending your limited energy supply on, or is there an easier alternative?
- Ration Your Energy Further. Is this obligation a necessary one to fulfil? Or would it be better to spend that energy on something more meaningful?
- Simplify and Improvise. Is this a task you can simplify? Instead of creating something from scratch, perhaps part of it can be pre-made? Instead of hauling a pile of groceries or presents home, perhaps you can shop online?
- Delegate and Channel the Holiday Spirit. Are there any tasks you can delegate to someone else who’s willing to help out? Don’t feel bad about it, especially if they offered assistance. They will be happy to help, and you will be in less pain. It’s the season of giving for everyone, after all!
- Pack Your Medications Beforehand. If you’re leaving your home, have you packed all your medications? Both the everyday and emergency ones?
- Don’t Forget Your Comfort Tools. Have you packed your usual comfort tools? Perhaps your hot water bottle, sunglasses, etc?
- Rope in a Lookout Buddy. Do you have someone to look out for you? An extra pair of eyes that will notice should you be overdoing things, or if you get a little confused?
- Know Your Exit Plan, in Case You Need to Leave Suddenly. In the event where you need to leave early, what will your ‘exit plan’ be? Do you need to label or put your gifts somewhere first? Do you need to have a plastic bag, essential oil, or medication on hand for sudden symptoms?
Holiday Checklist 2: Self-Care To Dos Whilst Attending an Event with Chronic Illness
- Check in with Yourself Every Hour or So. Are you drinking enough water? How are you feeling? If you notice a decline, do something to make yourself feel better – lie down on the sofa, rub on some essential oils, or simply take your leave. Set an alarm if it helps you to remember.
- Ignore the Ignorant. Create Good Memories. If someone is making ignorant remarks, remember that you have limited spoons and this is not worth your health or anger. Spend it on creating good memories instead.
- Keep Breathing! Take some time every now and then to steady and destress yourself through your breath.
- Keep Listening to Your Body & Adapting. Are you feeling comfortable? If not, what can you do to feel more relaxed, and thus, last longer with less backlash pain?
- Speak Up. If you’re slightly unwell but still would like to join in the festivities, then voice it out. For example, you can always sit and watch others play games, without having to participate in them physically.
Holiday Checklist 3 (For the Supporters): What You Can Do to Support Those with Chronic Illness
- Don’t Wait for Them to Ask for Help. Offer It. Offer to be their ‘lookout buddy’. You don’t always have to wait for someone to ask for help; often when they do, it’s because they’re already at their wits’ end. Essentially, you will be their personal advocate. Ask them for permission to bug them often with questions like, ‘how are you feeling?’ and ‘is there anything you need help with?’.
- Offer to be Their Kitchen or Cooking Assistant. You can help with the chopping, washing up, etc. You don’t even need cooking knowledge for these chores, which can be tedious for many due to fatigue and physical pain.
- Offer to Do Their Christmas Shopping or Groceries for Them. Get a list of items to buy, and go for it! This is understandably harder this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But you can still help them to sanitise their groceries (which can take hours for the chronically ill to do!), and key in all those pesky details to purchase items online for them.
- Engage Their Minds. Set them at ease. Tell them jokes, chat and gossip. Relieve them of the worries that are probably playing on repeat in the minds. And yes, you can talk to them like a normal person. Chances are, they’ll appreciate that a great deal!
- Offer to Keep an Eye on the Kids or Pets. Whilst yes, children and pets will ultimately be their parents’ responsibility, you can help lighten some of the load. Children are full of energy and questions, and you can burn that off by running around with them, and satiating their curious minds. It’s your chance to be that cool aunt or uncle 😉
- Offer to Take Them to Outside for a Short Breather. Ask if they’d like to go out for some fresh air every now and then. Holiday events can be boisterous, chaotic and noisy. Sound is one of the senses that we often forget, yet can make a huge impact on our mental wellbeing. Go some place quiet to get some fresh air and re-stabilise, before rejoining the crowd.
- Help to Conserve Their Physical Energy. Minimise their need for movement, as this can add up quickly. On a normal day some movement is probably good for them, yet attending an event is already an exhausting activity in and of itself. Let them chill out on the sofa while you serve up some yummy delicacies (if they can eat them)!
- Treat Them Like a Normal Guest. Seriously, I love it when people treat me like a normal person. It makes me feel the most welcomed, understood and comfortable. When people hesitate to ask me questions, or treat me with special attention all the time, it can get awkward. It makes me feel like a child who is incapable of caring for herself.
I wanted to say ‘treat them with an extra sprinkle of thoughtfulness’ but thinking about it, shouldn’t we treat everyone that way regardless? Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all! I hope that these holiday checklists were useful both to you and your supporters. End your year as best as you can, wherever you are in life! Do you have more tips to add to these lists? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
*Note: This article is meant for educational purposes and is based on the author’s personal experiences. It is not to be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your own doctor before changing or adding any new treatment protocols.
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For More Insight:
- 5 ways you can support a loved one with chronic illness during the holidays (throughthefibrofog.com): https://bit.ly/3n4Ygo3
- My 5 Holiday Go-To Self-Care Tips (themighty.com): https://goo.gl/EgQj9W
- Your Mindful Guide to Surviving the Holiday Season with a Chronic Illness (skillfullywell.com): https://goo.gl/sfEXiN
- Should I go? Deciding what holiday events are worth your effort (thrivingwhiledisabled.com): http://bit.ly/2rjYJIk
- Chronic Illness and the Holidays (pamelajessen.com): http://bit.ly/2L3scz3
- Surviving the Festive Season with a Chronic UTI (chronicutiaustralia.com): http://bit.ly/2GqQILT